DeShields, Stewart highlight USAB trials
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The theme early in the USA Basketball trials for both U17 and U18 national teams may have been stellar point guard play, but as things wind down, the frontcourt players stepped up.
Diamond DeShields -- U17: One of only two players invited to the trials from the 2013 class (the other is Norcross (Ga.) teammate Kaela Davis), DeShields stands to gain more than most in this setting as a first-timer because she is a year behind. In her high-school setting, her size and athleticism lends her to the forward position, but here at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, she has been able to show off the work she has done on her perimeter skills. She hasn't yet found her stroke from the perimeter, though her form suggests it will come in time, but she has demonstrated the ability to handle the ball on the wing and attack in the halfcourt. She adapted well after the first few sessions, especially to the physicality in the paint. Early on she found herself over-penetrating and either getting tied up or knocked to the ground, which negated her most impressive physical attribute, her leaping ability. She is starting to lift off just a step sooner and score with her runner. Her first step has been enough to get by most defenders here, which is saying a lot with the length and quickness on the floor. Defensively she is using her athleticism as well, blocking some shots on players who aren't used to it. It is exciting to see a young player get to mix it up with the older kids, and with each session figure a way to make plays in ways she usually doesn't have to on the high school or club circuits. (Chris Hansen)
Breanna Stewart -- U17: Size, athleticism, agility, timing -- pick almost any adjective and you can probably find some way it applies to Breanna Stewart. The 6-foot-3 forward from Cicero North High School in Syracuse, N.Y., is a returning member of last year's USA Basketball U16 team and the top-ranked player by ESPN HoopGurlz in the initial ranking of the 2012 class. She's also making her mark on the floor at this year's trials as possibly the most versatile interior player among both the U17 and U18 hopefuls. Stewart brings to the table a legitimate combination of height, reach and vertical play to make an impact at both ends of the floor. Offensively she's shown an ability to slice through the bigger and thicker traffic in the paint and finish at the rim. Her post moves are textbook and she's effective at creating space between the defender and the ball using her body and wingspan. There's good range on her jumper and she has the consistency to force the bigs to come out on her. On the drive, her long first step often seals defenders on her side and gives her the edge to get into the lane and finish. As effective as she is with the ball in her hands, Stewart's impact defensively may well be the thing that sets her apart from the competition. Her instincts and anticipation get her hands on shots and passes time and again. High-profile performers here at the trials have seen their shots taken out of the air in a way they've never experienced. However it's not just the block or tip that makes the impression, it's her chasing it down and kicking it ahead in transition. She's on the glass at both ends and the odds of out-working her are slim to none. It's hard to imagine a trip to France isn't going to be on her agenda this summer. (Mark Lewis)
Elizabeth Williams -- U17: The 6-3 post proved during last year's USA gold medal run at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship that she would be a player who the basketball world would have to reckon with for years to come. So it should come as no surprise that Williams has been her ever-dominating self, despite an unusually slow start on Day 1 of the USA U17 trials. Her approach is that of a seasoned international veteran, surveying the landscape and taking mental notes of each trial participant's strengths and weaknesses. By the close of business on Day 2 and certainly by lunch on Day 3, Williams was showing why she was the MVP of the 2009 FIBA Americas tournament and almost certainly the starting post for the U.S. in 2010. Offensively, the Virginian has a great set of hands and possesses the ability to establish superior post position which makes her an easy target for any perimeter player looking to add to her assist total. She has the ability to drop and finish with either hand with high frequency, and possesses a great up-and-under move that leaves would-be defenders hanging in the Colorado altitude before she finishes with one of the softest touches around the glass. On the defensive side of the ledger, Williams is smart with her communication and selective with her attempts for the blocked shot. She runs the floor and finishes in transition with careful gathering of steps and never in a hurried manner. (Kelvin Powell)
USA Trial Pic of the Day
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Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. A graduate of the University of Washington with a communications degree, he has been involved in the women's basketball community since 1998 as a high school and club coach, trainer, evaluator and reporter. Hansen can be reached at email@example.com.
Mark Lewis is the national recruiting coordinator for ESPN HoopGurlz. Twice ranked as one of the top 25 assistant coaches in the game by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, he has more than 20 years of college coaching experience at Memphis State, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Western Kentucky and, most recently, Washington State. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelvin Powell is a national evaluator for ESPN HoopGurlz. A former coach and club-program director, he operates Roundball Journal, a leading prep scouting service, and is a contributing editor at SLAM Magazine, as well as a member of the McDonald's All-American and the Gatorade National and State Player of the Year Selection Committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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